More than 30 people have been arrested in dozens of dawn raids across Gateshead as police crackdown on drug dealing.
Earlier this year it emerged that drugs deaths across the borough had nearly tripled to 35 in 2018 from just 12 the previous year.
A dedicated team of detectives at Northumbria Police launched Operation Salvator in a bid to address the problem.
Over a number of months they have spent hundreds of hours carrying out surveillance on those suspected of targeting vulnerable people.
The investigation has been carried out in partnership with Gateshead Council and focused on the supply of cocaine and heroin across the borough.
And this week detectives paid a visit to 37 addresses across the borough to secure evidence and take suspects into custody.
That has resulted in a staggering 34 arrests in what is one of the biggest operations into drug dealing in Gateshead ever carried out by the Force.
Today (Thursday) Detective Superintendent Peter Bent praised the work of the Operation Salvator team and warned drug dealers that there is more action to come.
He said: "It has been widely publicised that the number of drug-related deaths have drastically increased in the past year.
"That is completely unacceptable and we know it will take a multi-agency approach to turn things around.
"We know that drug users in Gateshead are being supplied with substances that are putting them at risk of death and that has to stop.
"This week we have sent a very strong message to those all drug dealers who want to prey on vulnerable users in Gateshead.
"If you involve yourself with this type of criminality then we will come for you and use all the powers at our disposal to disrupt illegal activity.
"This has been one of the biggest operations into drug dealing in Gateshead ever carried out by the Force and there is more action to come."
Det Supt Bent added: "We have been gathering huge amounts of intelligence as part of this operation but we always need help from the public.
"You are our eyes and ears on the ground and will have information about this type of criminal activity that could help the investigation.
"If you have information about drug dealing in your local community then please pick up the phone and call police."
Operation Salvator has been conducted alongside Gateshead Council and support services for drug users in the borough.
Anneliese Hutchinson, Service Director for Planning, Transport and Public Protection at Gateshead Council, said that action needed to be taken after the sharp increase in drug deaths last year.
“In 2018 we saw a huge increase in drug related deaths in Gateshead and so far this year we have seen nine which is extremely concerning.
“One of Gateshead Community Safety Board’s key priorities is to reduce the harm caused by drugs in our communities and we are working closely with our partners including the police and treatment service to achieve this.
“We take very seriously any information we receive on drug dealing and these arrests will thankfully mean fewer harmful drugs are on the streets of Gateshead.”
Operation Salvator is just one of many operations carried out as part of Operation Sentinel, the co-ordinated response to serious and organised crime across the region.
All 34 people, 30 men and four women, were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs. They have since been released under investigation.
During the search warrants police recovered a haul of drugs, cash and weapons. They also seized 13 vehicles believed to be linked to organised crime.
Enquiries into drug dealing across Gateshead will continue but anyone with information is being asked to contact police.
You can call the team on 101, email email@example.com or fill in an online reporting form at www.northumbria.police.uk. You can also contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Any drug users who need support tackling their addiction can get help by calling Gateshead Recovery Partnership on 0191 594 7821 or visit https://www.changegrowlive.org/content/gateshead-evolve.